Associate Professor

Undergraduate Chair, Science, Technology & Society

Office: 365 Cohen Hall
To see weekly availability and schedule a 15-minute appointment, use https://calendly.com/ebenson-penn/office-hours

Curriculum Vitæ

PDF icon CV

Education

Ph.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
M.A. Stanford University
A.B. Harvard University

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FALL 2020 OFFICE HOURS:

- To see weekly availability and schedule a 15-minute appointment, use https://calendly.com/ebenson-penn/office-hours.

- For other times or longer meetings, email (ebenson@upenn.edu) to make an appointment. Please include scheduling availability and subject of meeting.

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Etienne Benson is a historian of the environmental sciences, environmentalism, and human-animal relationships in the 19th and 20th centuries. Before arriving at Penn, he earned a PhD at MIT and was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.

He is the author of two books: Wired Wilderness: Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010) and  Surroundings: A History of Environments and Environmentalisms (University of Chicago Press, 2020).

He has also published a number of articles and book chapters on a range of topics in environmental history and the history of the environmental sciences. These include an article on squirrels in US cities; an article on birds and power lines that received two prizes from special interest groups associated with the Society for the History of Technology; and an article on bird-banding and citizen science that received the 2019 David Edge article prize of the Society for Social Studies of Science.

His current book project, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, concerns the politics and practice of data in hydrology and fluvial geomorphology in the United States from the 1940s to the 1970s. He is also co-leader of the interdiscplinary research collective Ways of Water, co-convener of the Envirotech Special Interest Group, and a member of the executive council of the Society for the History of Technology.

Research Interests

History of the environmental sciences
History of environmentalism
History of technology
Animal history

Selected Work

BOOK:

Surroundings: A History of Environments and Environmentalisms (University of Chicago Press, 2020)

Wired Wilderness: Technologies of Tracking and the Making of Modern Wildlife (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010)

SELECTED ARTICLES AND CHAPTERS:

"A Centrifuge of Calculation: Managing Data and Enthusiasm in Early Twentieth-Century Bird Banding,” Osiris 32 (2017).

“Trackable Life: Data, Sequence, and Organism in Movement Ecology,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 57 (2016): 137-147.

“Naming the Ethological Subject,” Science in Context 29, no. 1 (2016): 107-128.

“Generating Infrastructural Invisibility: Insulation, Interconnection, and Avian Excrement in the Southern California Power Grid,” Environmental Humanities 6 (2015): 103-130.  

“Trackable Life: Data, Sequence, and Organism in Movement Ecology,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 57 (2016): 137-147.

"The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the United States," Journal of American History 110, no. 3 (December 2013).

"Demarcating Wilderness and Disciplining Wildlife: Radiotracking Large Carnivores in Yellowstone and Chitwan National Parks," in Civilizing Nature: National Parks in Global Historical Perspective, edited by Bernhard Gißibl, Sabine Höhler, and Patrick Kupper (New York: Berghahn, 2012), pp. 173-188.

"Endangered Science: The Regulation of Research by the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts," Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 42, no. 1 (2012): 30-61.

"One Infrastructure, Many Global Visions: The Commercialization and Diversification of Argos, a Satellite-Based Environmental Surveillance System," Social Studies of Science 42, no. 6 (2012): 846-71.

"Autonomous Biological Sensor Platforms," Cabinet 41 (Spring 2011): 74-78.

"From Wild Lives to Wildlife and Back," Environmental History 16, no. 3 (2011): 418-422.

"A Difficult Time with the Permit Process," Journal of the History of Biology 44, no. 1 (2011): 103-123.

"Animal Writes: Historiography, Disciplinarity, and the Animal Trace," in Making Animal Meaning, edited by Linda Kalof and Georgina Montgomery (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2011): 3-16.

Teaching Fields

History of technology, environmental history, history of ecology and environmental sciences, animal studies, posthumanism

Courses Taught

STSC 003: Technology and Society
STSC 168: Environment and Society
STSC 169: Engineering Planet Earth
STSC 260: Cyberculture
HSSC 505: Seminar in the History and Sociology of Science
HSSC 565: Environmental History
HSSC 588: Humanities Beyond the Human

Faculty Bookshelf